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MONASH ASSOCIATION OF DEBATERS (MAD) presents

Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

By Tim Sonnreich

Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

Contents
Preface Introduction Chapter One Definitions Chapter Two Constructing and Deconstructing Arguments Chapter Three Tactics Models, Lines and More Chapter Four Manner Chapter Five Preparation and Case Construction Chapter Six More Advanced Tactics P.3. P.4. P.5. P.8. P.16. P.25. P.28. P.33.

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Tim Sonnreich

Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

Preface

Welcome to MADs annual Advanced Schools Training day. I hope that this session takes your debating to a new level! The Monash Association of Debaters (MAD) Advanced Schools Guide to Debating is designed to complement the sessions you have seen today, and will be a great reference when you need to refresh or update your skills, especially as you move into the finals and beyond. This handbook is an edited version of Tim Sonnreichs Debating Training Guide. (2006) Tim is one of the legends of Australian debating, having three times been crowned Australasian Intervarsity Debating Champion (2000, 2001, 2004) and twice been named Best Speaker in Australasia (2002, 2003). On top of this, he debated in the Grand Final of the 2003 World University Debating Championships. As an adjudicator, Tim is serving as the Deputy Chief Adjudicator of the 2007 World University Debating Championship and the 2007 Australasian Debating Championships. On behalf of everyone at MAD I want to wish you all the best for your future debates! --Victor Finkel, Editor and MAD Schools Training Officer 2006

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Tim Sonnreich

Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

Authors Introduction
This is a guide to debating, written ostensibly for young debaters, but along the way I think all but the most seasoned debaters and adjudicators should find something of interest in here. There are really two types of debaters. There are those who think debating is just a hobby, something thats fun and looks good on a CV, but isnt really very important in the grand scheme of things, and then there is another group. The second group think debating is more than just trophies, travelling overseas or having the best matter files. To this second group, debating actually has some inherent meaning and importance not because the outcome of any given debate ever really changes much, but because in its totality, debating changes everything. Unlike any other hobby or sport, debating if done well will shape your personality, your intellect and your beliefs. And if we ever want to live in a world where decisions are made on the basis of logic and persuasion, not force or intimidation, then we need to take things like debating seriously. For that reason I think its critical that people learn to debate well. Debaters at DLSU (Philippines) have a motto make the game beautiful and while I doubt that my involvement ever made debating prettier, Id like to think I always debated with integrity. Every debater needs to find their own style, and I certainly dont want everyone trying to sound like me in debates, but I would like to think that most debaters will eventually realise the importance of what they are doing, and the skills that theyre learning. I sincerely hope this guide will go some way towards that goal. Finally, I should thank all the people, past and present, who helped me draft this guide and who helped me learn the skills. There were a great many people from whom I learned tricks, or discussed ideas over the years, and they each deserve a slice of the credit (or blame, as the case may be) for this work. So as not to offend anyone I might leave out I wont name names, but I think all those former mentors, team-mates and foes know who they are. Enjoy. --Tim Sonnreich

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Tim Sonnreich

Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

Chapter One: Definitions.


The fairest and most effective way to define a debate is to apply two tests: Most Reasonable Definition: (1) Context & (2) Spirit of the motion. Context. Simply put, what is happening in the world or a specific region that relates to the topic? It could be a new law or ruling being debated by a government/organization. It might be a conflict has flared up or been the subject of significant media attention. Maybe its just that a long-standing problem has recently gotten worse, or a particularly bad example of an on-going problem has come to light. In any case, if a significant event has occurs that seems to be related to the topic, then those are the issues that should mostly be the focus of the debate subject to the second test. Spirit of the Motion. The spirit of the motion means, what sort of debate was envisioned when this topic was chosen? This test relies on the assumption that topics are chosen for a good reason namely that a particular issue or conflict would make a good debate. Part of assessing the spirit of the motion is being sure that your definition will generate a good, reasonably balanced debate, with interesting/important issues that are complex or sophisticated enough to be sustained over the course of the debate. There is no point defining the debate to a very controversial issue, which nevertheless is basically a single issue, and cannot be effectively extended into a debate with multiple speakers -each raising new issues. So, if the context to the debate suggests that a certain issue or situation should be the focus of the debate, and that would be sufficient to meet the spirit of the motion, then assuming you applied the tests correctly, you have a good definition for the debate. NOTE: The basic test of whether a place-set definition is fair is not whether or not your opponents do know anything about that issue, but whether it is reasonable to assert that they should, based on the competition and the experience of your opponents. For example it is reasonable to assume that debaters should have a working knowledge of the political situation in Israel, because its frequently reported on in the media. However, the conflict in the region of Nagoro-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan is far less widely known by even the most well read members of society. So if a topic relates generally to separatist conflicts, and significant events have occurred in both Israel and Nagoro-Karabakh (context test), then it would be fair, and wise, to define the debate as relating to Israel because it is more likely to yield a good debate (spirit of the motion test). Naturally, with a more tightly worded topic then applying the tests might indicate that the Nagoro-Karabakh conflict is the appropriate definition, but make sure you are fairly

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Tim Sonnreich

Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

applying both tests and not just looking for an opportunity to show off your knowledge of obscure places. The more vague or open the topic is, the more legitimate definitions there are available to you (i.e. the more open a motion is, the greater the number of options that technically will be equally valid as result of applying the definitional tests). So your obligation is to pick a definition that is firstly very clear (dont ever debate vague principles and ideas trust me, it wont be a good debate nail the principle down to something specific and practical, as you will see in the example below) and then choose the definition that will give the best chance of creating a good debate; which is a definition that you can reasonably assume your opponents can understand and respond to properly. Otherwise the result might be a definitional challenge (which ruins the debate and your speaker scores) and/or angry and confused adjudicators. Plus youll get a bad reputation as a team that plays dirty even if you didnt mean it! Example: That we spend too much money on the stars. Since stars could relate to astronomy/space-sciences or celebrities you can reach a fair definition by applying the two tests. (1) Context: Has there just been a significant event relating to either field (eg, the explosion of a space shuttle, or a controversially expensive film or contract)? Basically has there been something in the media that seems to relate to this topic? If only one meaning of the term stars has a strong contextual basis, then most likely the definition should go in that direction. In either case, apply the second test.

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Tim Sonnreich

Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

(2) Spirit of the motion: if there is a relevant context to the debate, then ask yourself which definition will yield the best debate? Which has the most interesting, controversial, debatable issues? Which has issues that both sides should be aware of? If one answer stands out on both tests, then you have a winner. In the event of a tie (think carefully, make sure it really is) then either is a good definition, but make an extra effort to set the debate up clearly and explain the relevance of the definition. What do you need to set up a debate correctly? Well you need a good definition, and you should explain the context you used to form that definition (as well as the definition itself) in the first minute of your speech. As part of establishing the context you should always explain what the status quo is, because as you will see later, your understanding of the status quo might not be the same as other people in the room (for reasons of culture, religion, etc) but if you explain your understanding of the status quo, then everyone will understand where you are coming from when you set up your model. This might sound like a minor point, but making sure both sides agree on what the status quo is can often be incredibly important. One reason is because the nature of the status quo defines how hard or soft line your case is.

HOW TO MOUNT A DEFINITIONAL CHALLENGE By Cathy Rossouw A definitional challenge can be mounted for any of the above reasons. The challenge MUST be made by the first negative speaker as their FIRST piece of substantive speech. Challenges cannot be mounted by other speakers. 1. State why the definition is unreasonable This is as easy as saying the definition of the Olympics as Australias obsession with sport is unreasonable because it has no logical link to the topic. 2. Explain why the definition is unreasonable Usually the best way to do this is to show that the average, reasonable person would believe the topic to be about something else. Eg; The Olympic dream would be about fair competition, friendship and athletic excellence. 3. The EVEN IF Just because youre challenging their definition doesnt mean you dont have to rebut their arguments. This is done by saying but even if we accept their definition of the Olympics, their arguments are still flawed because 4. Propose an alternative definition

Make it short and simple because by now everyone has a pretty good idea of what your case is.

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Tim Sonnreich

Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

Chapter Two: Constructing and Deconstructing Arguments


Part A: Making Arguments
Before anything else, you need to know the difference between an argument and an assertion. In simple terms an assertion is something that is stated as true, without enough analysis to demonstrate that it is reasonable to believe that the statement is likely to be true. Its a statement of fact, without proof of its validity. To avoid using assertions, you need to understand the anatomy of an argument. The Anatomy of an Argument Whereas an assertion is simply a statement of fact (or in slightly more sophisticated terms, an assertion can include simplistic/superficial analysis see Casual Causation below) a proper argument (in the sense of one argument for X is not we had an argument the other day) has the following structure:
IDEA ANALYSIS EVIDENCE equals one argument

Different people will use different labels for the various sections of an argument, but this basic format is necessary to have a properly formed argument. IDEA refers to the concept or proposition that you seek to prove it might be a principle, such as the government has an obligation to provide free education or it might just be something that would be helpful to your side of the debate, such as the death penalty is an effective deterrent for criminals. Either way, its nothing on its own it may be true, or it might not. The point is that you and your team want people to believe that its true. So how do you make them believe it? Well you start with some ANALYSIS of why it is likely to be true why it is logical and reasonable to believe that its true. This involves saying (out loud or in your head) why? and because a lot! But Ill give you an example in a moment. Finally there is the EVIDENCE. I put it last for two reasons first because its the least important, and second because it should be the last thing you worry about focus first on having the right IDEAS about what your side needs to argue, and then spend your time coming up with smart analysis to make it sound reasonable. If after that you have time for thinking up evidence and examples, then thats great. EVIDENCE can be statistics (boring, but can be helpful like the unemployment rate before and after a policy, or the percentage of people affected by a particular problem, or the costs of a proposal) or quotes (not direct quotes, but knowing what important people have said about an issue). But at university level evidence is more commonly

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Tim Sonnreich

Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

presented by case study or analogy. So having an example of a similar situation or policy can be very handy if you can clearly draw the link back to the issue at hand. NOTE: It really should go without saying, but its important to note that you should never invent evidence firstly its just poor form. You should have enough respect for your opponents not to try and cheat or cheapen the debate. Also its stupid. The more experienced debaters/adjudicators get, the better equipped they become at spotting lies. Its pretty humiliating to have someone show that you were lying because they know the real details of a given situation. Dont take the risk of it happening to you! Lets bring all that together by using a common motion as an example. On the affirmative of That we should stop protecting our local film industry, it would be handy to be able to show that small-budget, local productions can compete with big budget imports since fear of competition is the rationale behind government protection (so thats the IDEA local media can compete with foreign imports). How would you go about demonstrating an IDEA that is a little counter-intuitive? Well youd need some logical analysis mixed with relevant examples. For instance: The fear of unrestricted foreign media particularly American stems from the belief that bigger budget productions are inherently more attractive to viewers. Although its true that people do enjoy special effects laden films and TV, there is plenty of reason to believe that even without government protection, local media can survive and even prosper. Why? Because beyond the superficial desire to see things blow up, what really attracts viewers is media that is relevant to their interests and culture. For instance one of the most popular shows on the ABC is Gardening Australia it consistently outrates the news, and every other competitor that rival networks have run against it. It might seem like an odd choice for a hit show, but it has very loyal viewers because its relevant to their interests. Similarly the ABC had a major hit with the drama series Seachange which was not only well written, but it so actually tapped into the mood of the times that it has sparked the real-life seachange and treechange phenomenons, in which city-based people move to beachside or rural towns to enjoy the same lifestyle they saw on the show. At the other end of the scale there is Neighbours although its routinely the subject of ridicule, it has been one of the most consistently popular shows in Australian television history and has launched the careers of many Australian actors and artists you might think its lame, but to 15 year olds, its relevant. None of this should be surprising, since although American culture is almost universally popular, people from all over the globe respond to stories about their own country, and their own culture. Australian media doesnt need government protection to be competitive, it just need good writers and talented actors which the evidence shows that we have in abundance. Note that the argument doesnt have to rigidly follow the structure outlined above but you should be able to clearly identify the key elements of the anatomy of an argument within that example.

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Tim Sonnreich

Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

Part B Surgical Strike Rebuttal Minimal Fuss, Maximum Damage. In order to effectively evaluate the weakness in any given argument, you need to first understand what a good argument looks like. In almost every circumstance a good or well-structured argument will take this form: (1) IDEA The IDEA is simply the point you are trying to make. Its just a heading, a title, it might be true, but thats something for you to prove later. So for example, in the debate That we should ban smoking in pubs and clubs, the first affirmative speaker might have as the IDEA for one argument, that banning smoking will improve the profits of the businesses involved. Now that may be true, but it hasnt been proven (or even tried to be proven) yet, its just an IDEA. IDEAs are often the things you mention when you are signposting your speech. (2) ANALYSIS Once you have an IDEA, the next step is to provide the analysis to prove it. Basically this is where you show logically or analytically that the IDEA is likely to be true (its hard to really prove things in debates, but you can show something is highly likely to be true). You can do this by demonstrating that logically the IDEA is true when taken in the context of the topic, or you can offer a series of reasons to support it. When formulating your ANALYSIS the key word to think of is because, every time you come up with an IDEA, say this is (likely to be) true because. And you will be doing ANALYSIS. You should keep explaining why or because until you think you are saying things so obvious that they dont need to be said. But assume that the adjudicator is either fairly dump, or slightly hostile to you, or both. So you have keep explaining the point, keep saying because until its impossible for the adjudicator not to accept your argument as at least valid. Using the previous example of banning smoking, a speaker might say, banning smoking will actually generate more profits for businesses (IDEA), because (here begins the ANALYSIS) it will attract more customers. At present many potential customers are put off going out to pubs and clubs, or cut short their visits because they are put off by cigarette smoke, which they know is dangerous to them. Etc, etc, you could explain this in more detail but I think you get the point. However, although this ANALYSIS is partially persuasive on its own as a justification for the IDEA, it would be stronger if it had some evidence. Which brings us to the last step (note my excellent use of signposting!) (3) EVIDENCE The third step, EVIDENCE, is usually the easiest. This is the stage where you provide something like a statistic, a survey, a case study or an analogy to give greater credibility to your IDEA and ANALYSIS. Partly because its the easiest to do, its also the least important link in the chain of an argument, but its a good to thing to have1. So to finish our example-argument one piece of evidence might be a survey conducted by ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) that demonstrates how a significant number of people would spend more time in smoke-free pubs and clubs.
1

See William B. Panlilios article in MDR Edition 3 for a very sophisticated discussion of why this is true.

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Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

But back to rebuttal Ok now that you know what a good argument is, you can effectively destroy it. The argument chain is weakest at link three EVIDENCE since its always easy to dispute the evidence presented by your opposition. For example you could criticise the study conducted by ASH - since as an openly antitobacco organization it would probably be biased in the way it conducted the survey. But attacking the argument here is a poor strategy. Because the opposition can repair the chain by providing more evidence (which you attack, then they give more and its a stalemate) or by simply haggling over whether ASH is a good source is evidence. So booooring Attacking the argument a little higher, at the ANALYSIS, is more difficult but also more effective. If you can demonstrate that the ANALYSIS is illogical or based on assumptions that are not true (or unlikely to be true) then you heavily damage the credibility of the whole argument. This is the most common sort of rebuttal by experienced speakers. However its usually not a fatal blow. For example you might say that smoking is not really a reason why people choose not to attend pubs and clubs, since less than a quarter of the Australian population smoke, but nightclubs and pubs are full of non-smokers every weekend. Unfortunately for you, a clever opposition can rebuild their ANALSYS by giving other reasons, or explaining the logical links in a different way, that weakens your rebuttal. So finally we get to the top of the chain, the IDEA. This is usually very difficult to attack since often they are reasonable ideas, it just that your team has to argue that they are not true in the context of this debate. But sometimes you can attack the idea, and if you can do it effectively, its a fatal blow to that argument. So in our example, you can attack the idea that banning smoking in pubs will be good for business by arguing that firstly you dont think thats true (and attack the analysis) but even if it is, you say its not the most important priority in this debate. Smoking is a legal activity, consenting adults have the right to do lots of things that are harmful to them (like drinking the alcohol served in pubs and clubs) and the government cant ban it simply because it might make more money. Peoples liberties are more important than a nightclub owners profits. If the adjudicator accepts that sort of argument (or any other attack on the IDEA) then the other links in the chain are irrelevant. Obviously its not that simple, the opposition will defend their idea, and you need very good reasons to show that an entire IDEA and the argument that flows from it, is irrelevant. But if you think the IDEA is vulnerable, you should attack it, because its effective and its efficient

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Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

Part C: Rebuttal from First Principles.


Once you understand the anatomy of an argument, it should be relatively simple to see how best to attack an argument, as outlined above. But in just the same way that you can (and should!) use first principles to construct your arguments,2 there some fundamental, logical principles by which you can attack arguments. So even if you dont know anything about the evidence they used, and youve never heard that type of analysis before, if you listen carefully and take good notes, then you might find one of the following flaws has occurred in the argument. 5 common flaws with arguments which anyone should be able to spot regardless of how much you happen to know about a topic this is just logic. 1) Assertion the argument is in fact not an argument at all, its simply an assertion, and as such there is no logical reason given to believe that is it true. Simply point out why there has not been any/enough analysis to demonstrate the validity of the assertion and then provide a reason why the assertion is not obviously or intuitively true. 2) Contradiction The argument may be valid, but it is in contradiction with a previous argument. To be a real or full blown contradiction, it must be that the case that it is impossible for the two arguments in question to both be true simultaneously. So it cannot logically be both cheaper and more expensive at the same time to do a given thing. Dont go calling every argument you hear a contradiction or you will look foolish. If it is in fact a contradiction then that can cause massive damage to an opponents case, but if it isnt, then the false accusation can cause massive damage to your credibility! But spotting and pointing out a contradiction is only the beginning, if you want to fully exploit it you have to explain to the adjudicator exactly how this compromises the credibility of their case. So dont just say first they said their plan would be really cheap, and now they say it would be really expensive, but is worth the money thats a pretty blatant contradiction, follow it up with some analysis, like; so which is it then? One of them clearly doesnt really understand the nature of this situation if a cheap program can be effective, then why is this she trying to tell us well need to spend lots of money to resolve the problem, but if shes right and it would take a lot of money to make a dint of this problem, then everything the first guy said is rubbish. Hopefully their next speaker will tell us which of his team mates knows what they are talking about, and which one was just making stuff up.

See Chapter 5

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Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

You need to make it as uncomfortable for them as possible, and try and force them to not just retract the statement, but concede that a number of their arguments are irrelevant (they usually wont say that out loud, theyll just stop mentioning all the arguments on one side of the contradiction thats when you know theyre in trouble and you should listen closely to how they defend themselves if they stop mentioning certain arguments then attack them for abandoning a chuck of their case). NOTE: The most important thing is that you can clearly and simply explain the contradiction its absolutely critical that the adjudicator understands and believes you so explain it slowly and carefully, and keep your eye on the adjudicator to see if theyre following you. As you can see, a contradiction is such a serious flaw in a case, so if an opponent accuses your team of running a contradiction it is very important that your side respond as soon as possible and attempt to demonstrate how the two arguments in question are not contradictory. 3) Casual Causation Essentially this is a lack of analysis. It occurs when someone tries to draw a link between two events, without showing how the former event actually caused the latter event to happen. A classic is when people argue that the introduction of the death penalty for murders causes a reduction in the number of murders. Never mind the fact that there are instances in which introducing the death penalty has preceded a rise in the murder rate, this is simply not reason to believe prima facie that the death penalty is a deterrence. There may have been a reduction in murders the following year for any number of reasons (it depends entirely on why people commit murder in the first place). Between 1996 and 1997 there was dramatic drop in the number of murders in Australia but the death penalty was abolished here in the 1970s. So what happened? Well in 1996 there was the Port Arthur massacre, when Martin Bryant killed 35 people in Tasmania. Immediately after that incident the Federal Government instituted strict, uniform gun laws, which saw thousands of guns handed in as the result of gun buyback scheme and it became much harder to legally buy a gun and keep it in your home. Without wanting to say too much about gun control, the point of this example is that there can be many reasons why the crime rate especially the murder rate goes up and down. So be careful not to be too quick to assume that one factor is more important to the outcome than another, unless you have the analysis to show why that is the case. 4) False Dichotomy This a particular type of mischaracterization of a debate or problem. It occurs when someone says that there is a choice to be made, where the only options are A or B, when in fact they are not the only choices available. This can occur because a speakers is trying to assert a self-serving dichotomy (in effect they are saying, this debate/argument is a choice between doing something positive to address this problem, or simply letting things get worse in a decent debate this wont be true, its almost always a choice between two options designed to improve a situation. Or a speaker can offer a false dichotomy because they are stupid/lazy and dont understand the debate/your argument properly.

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Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

Either way its important to recognise when someone is attempting to falsely divide the debate into two positions, one of which is either not what you are arguing, or not what anyone would argue. Be very clear at all times about what your team is trying to prove and you should be able to deal with this situation easily enough. 5) Straw Man This is another type of misrepresentation or mischaracterization of an argument. Basically the straw man is when a team set up an argument (which you have not made, and dont intend too) and then proceed to rebut it. Sometimes this happens when a speaker takes an extreme example of your proposal, sometimes it happens when they misrepresent something you said, sometimes it happens when they were hoping you would argue a certain thing, and you actually proposed something slightly different. It doesnt really matter why, its important to point out when a team is not engaging with your case, because if you let a straw man argument be beaten to death without pointing out that its not your argument in the first place, a weak adjudicator can assume that it was part of your case. Also its important to point out when your opponents are not engaging because thats a critical part of having a good debate.
Kim Littles Guide to THEMATIC REBUTTAL It sounds impressive and difficult. Actually, thematic rebuttal isnt that hard at all. The idea is that instead of just listing the oppositions arguments speaker by speaker, you group their arguments into themes. Common examples of themes are: economic, social, feminist, national and international. Sound familiar? They are the same sorts of categories that you use when setting up team splits. A theme can also be an issue that didnt seem important at the beginning of the debate, but became a big issue. Throughout the debate, write down the oppositions arguments, and start grouping them into themes. Some debaters have coloured cards ie; yellow for economic arguments, red for social arguments under which they write points concerning these themes. Thematic rebuttal is more than just grouping themes together its all about presentation. At the beginning of your speech, list the major themes of the opposition, and then shred em one at a time. Its as simple as saying: tonight, the opposition have presented three themes: economic, social and environmental. I will discuss these one at a time. Believe it or not, this sort of stuff is guaranteed to whip your adjudicator into a frenzy. And the best thing about thematic rebuttal is that each speaker can do it when they rebut at the start of their speech!

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Tim Sonnreich 14

Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

Part D: Even If
In the previous discussion of rebuttal I showed you to build up a proper argument, and then how to tear apart an argument targeting one of the links in the argument chain. There is of course another, simpler way of discrediting an argument, and ironically its so simple that the more experienced most debaters become, the less they tend to think about arguments in this way. The simplest form of rebuttal is: Accept the premises, deny the conclusion.

Too often debaters especially good debaters, who are used to thinking about issues and arguments in fairly complex ways forgetting to apply the simplest and most powerful test: what would happen if the model was implemented exactly as your opponents suggest? Of course there are benefits to attempting to show that a problem is more complicated than your opponents seem to realise, and yes its good to show that their model is just too unwieldy or poorly designed to ever be implemented in the way they suggest. But that still leaves the most important question for any debate what if it was? I saw a perfect example of this in a practice debate I watched recently on the topic that Pakistan should hold free elections or lose the support of the West. The Negative team spent a lot of time explaining how elections wouldnt work because the dictatorial government would cheat, because opposition forces have been smashed, because there are the proper institutions in place to handle the elections etc, etc. Of course the Affirmative team denied all those things and said a decent election was possible. But thats not the best argument for the Negative team. The best argument is; what would happen if there was an election right now, in just the way you say there could be? Who would win? And the answer is pretty simple; if a free and fair election was held in Pakistan right now, there is a very high chance that a radical Islamic group would win just as Hamas won a generally fair election in Palestine. The reasons why are a little complicated and not worth discussing here, but if you can show that a win by the radicals is the most likely outcome of real election, then thats a much better reason not to have an election at all, than it is to say the election would be rigged. Naturally that doesnt mean the debate would be over, a decent government team will deny that the radicals would win, and give some good reasons why (and there is a good argument to be made look at who has won all the previous free elections in Pakistan for instance), but its a powerful and important argument for a Negative team. So remember before you spend a lot of time trying to destroy a model, take a moment to ask yourself; even if we did do this, what would happen? You might be surprised by the answer!

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Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

Chapter Three: Tactics


Part A: Hard/Soft Lines and Models.
The terms hard and soft in reference to a definition or model are an indication of how profound the change is that is being proposed. A very small modification to the status quo is soft, while a big change is hard. The status quo might be in terms of legal principle or in terms of peoples attitudes. Once you have determined the strength of your line, it should be relatively easy to create your model. Generally speaking these terms do not imply how difficult it is to argue for that level of change since often it is easier to argue a hardline rather than a softline but well get to that later. Example: For the topic That this house supports euthanasia, below are different definitions you might choose. Soft line ------------------------- Moderate line ---------------------------Hard line
Restricted to incredibly sick people, who are very close to death, and who have no hope of cure or a decent standard of living. Patients need the consent of multiple doctors and psychologists. Passive euthanasia only deny food/medicine Allowed to the terminally ill, who have very low standard of living and little-to-no hope of a cure. Doctor & psychologist consent. Doctor assisted euthanasia allowed Available to anyone diagnosed with a terminal or debilitating or degenerative illness, whether physical or mental. Need a medical consent Doctor assisted or selfadministered.

A smart team will stay somewhere between the moderate and the hard line in every debate, because its both the fairest thing to do, and is the tactically sound choice too. Fairness: The problem with the soft line is that will virtually always fail both tests of a good definition. It will rarely be a contextually based definition or model, because a plan so close to the status quo would rarely be controversial enough to illicit serious media attention or public debate. Obviously in terms of the spirit of the motion, a soft line is highly unlikely to yield a good, complex debate with a range of important issues. It is by definition not particularly controversial, and therefore is a poor choice to debate (see ultra-soft lines in Chapter Six) Tactically: A harder line is usually easier to defend because it is more philosophically consistent (coupled with the idea of refilters that Ill discuss later, you should never again run an inconsistent case), and more closely bridges the gap between the scale of the problem and the scale of the solution (see The ProblemSolution Gap in Chapter Six). Also a hard(ish) line pushes you further away from your opposition, and that means youll need to argue why your model has more benefits, but is also the correct norm by which this issue should be addressed (see Trends, norms and tipping points). The

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Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

single biggest problem with running a soft line, is that you will run out of (smart) arguments. Just like with a truistic definition, it might seem like logically a truistic definition is best, but in terms of filling 6-8 minutes with intelligent analysis, its just impossible if what you are saying is simply, irrefutably true. So running a hard line means both teams will have a better debate, because they will both have the scope to make strong arguments, with sophisticated analysis. But dont push this rule too far, or youll end up running insane definitions The extreme ends of the spectrum the status quo and insane definitions. (1) Status Quo: simply put, the Aff should never run the status quo unless compelled to by the topic (which usually would mean it was a bad topic). Oppositions can run the status quo, but there are several strategic factors that need to be weighed up before you make the decision to do it (discussed in Chapter Three). Obviously the status quo is attractive to teams who are not well prepared for that particular topic. This is because any decent Aff will explain the status quo in their setup before outlining their alternative and a smart (but ill-informed) Neg can use that information, but portray it as knowledge they had all along. However this needs to be weighed up against the fact that the Neg do not in fact know much about the details of the status quo, and risk being caught out in a lie or misrepresentation of the status quo by the Aff. They also risk being made to defend alleged harms (established at the start of the debate as the reason for having the debate in the first place) of the status quo which may be exaggerated or incorrect, but which the Neg team will not be equipped to refute effectively. Conversely, if the Neg invent their own counter-model then there are pros and cons. The benefit of counter-proposing an original model is that will negate much of the Affs pre-prepared criticisms of the status quo. The downside is that an original model concedes that the status quo is a failure and therefore weakens the burden of plausibility (the likelihood based on current trends that their model will ever be implemented) on the Aff. In other words its more difficult to argue that the Affs new model wont work or will never happen, if the Negs own model is also novel and therefore vulnerable to exactly the same criticism. But since one sides model is usually more ambitious than the others, weakening the burden of plausibility can be disproportionately beneficial to one team (usually the Aff). Of course plausibility is a relatively weak argument. All but the most ridiculous models must still be analysed as though it were viable through an even if discussion (for example, proposing a hardline euthanasia model is almost impossibly idealistic when judged against the current norms and trends in society, but if you get hung up on that fact you will forget to engage in the debate!). (2) Insane lines: Although hard lines are good, and usually there is a positive relationship between the hardness of the case and its moral and practical consistency, there is a point at which this relationship breaks down. Past a certain point a definition or model stops being hard and becomes insane.

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There a few ways to judge if your line is insane. The first is the laugh test. If the opposition (and audience) laugh when you propose the case, its usually a good sign that you have stepped across the line (it may be the way you explained the argument, but nevertheless its a good indication). Secondly, if anyone in the team feels seriously uncomfortable making the argument, then thats a bad sign. Debaters should be flexible and willing to argue counter-intuitive positions, but if a reasonable person is offended or disturbed by your case, then you have a problem. Its fine to argue for things that are unlikely to happen, even things that are highly unlikely to happen, but you should think carefully before arguing in favour of something that is incredibly unlikely to happen. The best test is to remember that the model is not the debate. Your model simply exists to clarify and focus the terms of the debate. If you are spending all your time defending the reasonableness of the terms of your model, then you have probably gone too far (or debating against terribly pedantic, inexperienced debaters). Using the previous example of euthanasia as a guide, the insane line might be; providing suicide pills, on request to any adult or child following the initial diagnosis of a serious medical problem, which they could use at their discretion. Its just too far fetched.

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Part B: Search for a Super-Model (it was a funny name once)


There seems to be a fair bit of confusion about what a model is, how to construct one and what to do with it once you have it. Models are an extremely important and useful part of debating, so let me try to clear up all those questions. The first question is what is a model? The answer is simple. A model is a specific set of practical actions proposed by a team in a debate. So it means that instead of just arguing that a certain idea is good, the team actually set up a particular type of system that they support for reasons that are linked to various parts of the model. For example, the "heroin trials" debate (i.e. That we support safe heroin injecting rooms) is one where there is room for a range of models, because there are many important questions about the practical application of the idea. For instance, teams should choose between a model of government supplied heroin or a user supplies system i.e. a no questions asked policy about where a user obtained their drugs as long they use them in the safe injecting rooms. Both these models have strengths and weaknesses. The government supplied model will generate criticism on the grounds that it turns the government into a drug dealer, as well as questions of how long the government can afford to maintain such a system (especially if the number of users grow as a result). However this system does effectively put many drug dealers out of business and it also means that users will always get pure heroin and not the dirty varieties often found on the street (which is a major cause of overdoses). So you see the choice of model is extremely important, because it can change the focus of the debate, and bring in (or cut out) various issues. Building your model. There are many ways to construct a model, the easiest of which is to steal someone elses! The vast majority (if not all) the debates youll do are real, contemporary issues. That means that they are being debated in the public arena right now. So its perfectly legitimate for you to take the side of one of the groups who are publicly lobbying on this issue. Take the republic referendum held a few years ago. At that time debates about a republic were obviously common and the model you picked was critically important. But thankfully the Constitutional Convention produced a wide range of models representing the ideas of each of the republican groups represented at the convention. So by keeping up to date with the news, and becoming aware of the various proposals being suggested by different groups in society, you have ready-made models just waiting to be debated! Alternatively, you can modify an existing model. So once youve stolen a model off a political party or whoever, you might be able to think of ways to improve it or expand it. Thats fine too. Just make sure that youre really clear about how your version of the model is different to the group that you stole it off. The only other way to come up with a model is to invent it from scratch. This can be time consuming, but rewarding in many ways. What it requires is for you and your team to really talk about the issues in the debate. Remember that most debates stem from a problem, either a real or perceived problem and if you understand the problem, you might be able to come up with a solution. The best thing about invented models is that

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they are original. That means that your opposition wont be prepared for them (whereas they can be prepared for a common model) and you have a chance to have a truly unique debate, on issues that you have established. I strongly encourage teams to come up with their own model, because it shows research (no matter how smart you think you are, there is no substitute for learning the details of an issue), thought and a genuine attempt to tackle the issues, however I have one warning. Keep it real. Make sure your model is realistic and practical. By realistic, I mean make sure that you are taking into account the way people really behave, otherwise your model will be hopelessly flawed (for example the counter-model to attacking Iran is not "world peace" because at this point in history it is simply unrealistic). By practical I mean that it should be possible given the resources that currently exist. Dont propose a model that would cost trillions of dollars, or require technology that doesnt exist, or is highly unlikely to exist anytime soon. How to use your model The model should always be presented by the first speaker, before they present their substantive arguments. This is because you want your model to frame the debate, and structure which issues are important to this debate. You cant do that if your model comes out at second speaker. Nevertheless the important thing to know about models is that they are not the be all and end all of debates. There are precious few debates where a good model will win a debate all by itself. The model is a tool to structure debates and focus them around important issues. It is the analysis of those issues that will be the deciding factor in most debates. A model makes a debate clearer because it tells the audience precisely what the debate is about, but you still have to show why thats a good thing, and why the benefits of the model outweigh the inevitable costs. Final Tips on Models Negative teams can have a model too. Theyre called a counter-model and are just as effective as an Affirmative team model. Dont get too hung up on how much a model costs (in monetary terms) as long as the benefits of the model are worth the cost, (and the cost is realistic) then its really not that important. Lots of programs cost the government a lot of money, but they are important and worthwhile. A good way to attack a model is to look at what assumptions the team have made when they constructed it. Did they realistically assess how individuals and groups act in society? Is it really the role of the government (or other organisation) to do what is being proposed? It is OK for opposing teams to concede some of the benefits of a model as long as they show why the problems the model will create are worse than those benefits. Models are a great way to show your ideas are practical and possible, and in any case where you're proposing to significantly change something, a model of some description is a must. But again, the model is pretty useless without strong arguments to back it up.

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Part C: Slippery Slopes


A slippery slope argument is when you attempt to prove that by doing one thing, you will also, as a by-product, inevitably do something else worse. So you might say; if we legalise abortion even under very specific circumstances (such as where the pregnancy presents a medical danger to the mother) we will unleash forces that will eventually lead to abortion under any circumstances (abortion on demand). This type of argument is incredibly common, and is a natural instinct amongst inexperienced debaters who are seeking to inflate the harm of their opponents model as much as possible. Inexperienced debaters are notorious for making slippery slope arguments that are so extreme that they become absurd, and hence most adjudicators discourage any argument that even approaches a slippery slope. Consequently there is a now a common, but mistaken, belief that slippery slope arguments are automatically weak or invalid. That isnt true. The problem with the way a lot of people make slippery slope arguments is that they arent actually proper arguments at all, they are in fact assertions and thats why they seem weak. Basically assertions are always weak - by definition and slippery slopes are almost always assertions because people dont know how to do proper analysis. NOTE: Before I explain how to develop a slippery slope into a proper and often powerful argument, its important to note that this type of argument shouldnt be overused. Firstly there are effective ways to counter slippery slope arguments, and secondly they are only truly relevant under specific circumstances. So thats the trick first learn how to do them, and then think hard about when to use them. Making Slippery Slope Arguments Work The key to an effective slippery slope argument is showing how strong the motivation will be for a government to take additional steps down a particular policy path after they have taken the first but thats not automatically or intuitively true, and thats the trick. What youre really trying to do is to show that your opponents model will change the social norms and begin a new trend a trend that will inevitably lead to unacceptable conclusions. Lets take the abortion example I used before. Imagine an Aff team is proposing that abortion should be legalised, but only under certain circumstances (eg. where the pregnancy would threaten the life of the mother) well call that Position A. And you want to make the argument that legalising abortion, even in such a limited way, will inevitably lead to a much wider tolerance of abortion, meaning abortion-on-demand well call that position D. The problem is that it is not reasonable to believe that a government would move from Position A to Position D in one step, so you have to explain what the middle steps Positions B and C would be, and why the trend would be to legalise those positions too. Heres an example. The Abortion Slippery Slope

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Position A------------------Position B----------------Position C------------------Position D Severely limited: medical necessity only Strictly limited: also allowed in the case of rape or incest Some limits: also allowed for psychological reasons Almost no limits: Fully legalised abortion on demand

It should be obvious just by looking at each of the positions, that there is a clear progression and a continuation of logic flowing from Position A to D. Position A relies on a key concept that the health of the mother outweighs the health of the foetus. But thats essentially the same logic that justifies each of the other positions, and you can demonstrate that: If we allow abortion, in cases where the health of the mother is endangered by continuing the pregnancy, then we will enshrine in law a principle that will inevitably go much further than we intend. How can we say that it is acceptable to disregard the rights and interests of the foetus if the mothers medical health is at risk, without accepting the same rationale in cases where a woman has been the victim of rape or incest? Since clearly the psychological health of the mother has a strong influence on her physical health, and we know that the victims of rape and incest often suffer from severe depression that can lead to suicidal tendencies, surely we must treat all these risks the same way. But if we accept that the trauma of rape, compounded by an unwanted pregnancy, creates a psychological harm that is a significant health risk to the mother then why does the cause of the psychological harm matter? If the health of the mother is the overriding concern, then it shouldnt matter why a women is suffering a severe depression or why she is suicidal, all that should matter is that she is, and that if the pregnancy is exacerbating that, then the women should be able to terminate the pregnancy. Of course if the health of the women truly is paramount, and a risk to her health, whether medical or psychological is connected to the pregnancy, then surely we must extend that to any set of circumstances that endanger the health of the mother whether they are medical, psychological, economic or social. Clearly if having a child would leave a woman impoverished, then that could represent a threat to her health. Equally if a pregnancy could result in social exclusion or ostracism, then there is obviously a risk there of depression and poor-health. So what we have here is a model that seeks to be restrictive, but which if we are to belief the arguments that sustain it, then there are very few reasonable restrictions on it at all. So you see the key is take it step by step, and show how logically, once you accept certain principles of the model, it is unreasonable to include the sort of restrictions that are entailed in the model. The important thing is to sound reasonable and measured just follow the chain of logic, explain every step and keep referring back to the original arguments for Position A.

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It helps if after explaining the argument you can throw in a case study, and in the example of abortion its pretty easy because its hard to think of a country which has legalised abortion in any way in which, thereafter, there hasnt been a general trend for further liberalisation. But just because history is on your side, doesnt mean that you dont need to do good analysis of why it is true, and why it will remain true.

Part D: Opposing Minority Rights


As a general rule you should always veto topics that force you to oppose any move towards greater equality for a recognised minority group. The reason is simple enough, because discrimination is inherently wrong and illogical, and youll always struggle to overcome those problems in a debate. However there are times where youre forced into opposing an increase in rights for a minority group (such as gay marriage/adoption, or cultural rights for ethnic minorities, etc) and so you need some tactics for approaching these difficult situations. The first rule is never oppose the aim of equal rights. You can (and should) argue about how best to move society towards the goal of equal rights for all, but youre digging an unnecessary and dangerous hole if you oppose the aim of equal rights. Again the reason is simple; its virtually impossible to explain why a particular group deserve to be discriminated against without straying into bigotry or sexism, and not only are they inherently weak arguments, they also violate the Code of Conduct at most tournaments and you can get into a lot of trouble. Basically this is a perfect example of a situation in which a tactical concession is the prudent course of action. Simply concede that there is a problem no society on earth has reached a position of full entitlement for all its citizens, and the processes by which rights are achieved are crucial to the acceptance of those rights in practice. So then the debate becomes about new issues, such as; how important is it that the society at large the majority accept the legitimacy of these new rights for the minority? And of course then the question is; how do we engender acceptance of minority rights by the majority? In a good debate the teams will disagree on both counts. One team will say that the acceptance of new rights is not really required for rights to be meaningful (e.g. voting it didnt matter that many men still didnt accept womens right to vote when it was first allowed, that right was still empowering for women) and the other side will say that acceptance is crucial (e.g. equal pay provisions an employer is legally required to offer equal pay, but if that boss is sexist then he can promote women slower, reduce their access to important clients or additional training, etc all of which affects their pay). Additionally the teams can dispute the best way to generate community support for minority rights. One team says that peoples natural fear and reluctance to change social norms evaporates quickly once people see that new rights for minorities doesnt have to result in diminished rights for the majority) and their opponents argue that its better to continue the debate and the discussion until there is clear acceptance of change (Canada is a classic example it legalised gay marriage after a long period of public debate, and although there will always be critics, by the time with law was based there was virtually

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no social backlash, and even when a conservative government was elected promising to review the decision, theyve made no moves to restrict gay marriage because the majority of Canadians accept it as fair). This second argument can be hard to make, but if it works then youll win, and its still easier to argue than discrimination is right. The key is to broaden the debate its not just about whether Group A can do X, its about how that group fits into the society and the long term process of change that is a true rights movement. You want to emphasise that these decisions (about when to grant new rights) should be made when there is something approaching a consensus especially when youre talking about rights that require interaction with society to enact like employment rights and social rights (adoption, etc). The worse outcome is for a right to be turned into a political football, which the right being given and taken away at the whim of the political cycle. To be truly meaningful it must be enduring, and (generally) be accepted, not a source of social division. But Id remind you that tactically, the best outcome for you is to avoid these sorts of debate it takes a great deal of skill and credibility to pull off a case like this, and youre constant one wrong word/phrase away from saying something bigoted. Its a minefield best avoided.

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Chapter Four: Manner


What is good manner? Unfortunately, there are very few convenient tests or tactics with manner. But thats not to say that good manner cant be taught and so it must be possible to describe it. Id stress that there is no single definition of good manner. You can be loud or quiet, you can be funny or serious, and in some speeches you might do all those things. If you made up a list of the best debaters in the World, it would include people with range of styles. But that said, I think good manner is the right combination of three things; Persuasiveness, Credibility and Conviction. Persuasiveness Persuasiveness is really about making your message appealing to the audience. It incorporates all of the obvious things that people taught you at school, like; make eye contact, project your voice. etc. But thats like saying that driving a car is just a combination of turning a wheel and moving your head. Its too simplistic and it sucks all of the art of out it. The art is in the psychology of persuasion. For instance its vital that you understand the difference between intuitive and counter-intuitive arguments.3 Running a counterintuitive argument is not bad per se, but it is harder. If you dont acknowledge when youre running a counter-intuitive argument youll never make it fly in the debate. But how to you make a counter-intuitive argument work? Well you have explain it carefully and use strong analysis (discussed earlier) but from a manner point of view its crucial that you choose your language carefully, dont overcomplicate things any more than is necessary, and most importantly look at your adjudicators while youre saying it. You have to learn to read the faces of your judges, and if it doesnt look like they understand you, then you need to slow down and try again until they get it. Credibility Learning to have gravitas is difficult, because its linked to personal maturity, which you cant rush, but in the meantime there are some ways to project the maximum amount of credibility that youre currently capable of. Rule number one is: Take it seriously, dont undermine yourself. Too often inexperienced speakers do everything possible to emphasis how inexperienced they are. Thats just counterproductive. Dont ever talk your speech down while youre giving it. That sounds obvious but its astonishing how many debaters will make an argument, and then theyll say something like that didnt really make sense did it? Im not sure if its just a result of nerves, or some misguided attempt to be endearing, but either way you should stop it immediately. Another classic example is deferring to your opposition. So an opponent will make some arguments that sound good about say economics, and the next speaker will say something stupid like well I dont know as much about economics as the last speaker, but Ill have a go at rebutting her argument anyway. This is a double hit it weakens your credibility and it increases your opponents credibility!
3

A counter-intuitive argument is something that people will initially find difficult to accept something that seems to conflict with their gut feeling..

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I cant stress enough how much damage this does to your credibility. It seems like a small thing, but it can be devastating. The reason is because talking yourself down can act as a subtle but powerful confirmation of any negative perception of you that an adjudicator might already be harbouring. This is especially true for ESL speakers and young female speakers. I wish it wasnt like that, and of course many adjudicators are fair and unbiased in terms of manner, but significant proportion of them under the general principle that the older you are, the more credible you are, and that generally men are more credible than women. NEVER talk down your speech, yourself or your ideas under any circumstances. Broadly speaking, the higher up the tab you move (which increases the quality of your adjudicators) the less important those stereotypes are, but while there has been enormous improvement in the adjudication culture over the years, its still not perfect. Rule number two is: Sound like you know what youre talking about. So that means one of two things either actually know what youre talking about, (by working hard on learning first principles as well as specific knowledge), or sound like you know what youre talking about (the first is better). You can sound credible by avoiding simple mistakes like make sure you get the names of things right including pronunciation, and use then them confidently. If youre not sure whether the name of the Chinese President is Hu Jin Tao or Wen Jao Bao, take a guess, but whichever you choose, say it confidently! The only sure way to build up your credibility is to really know what youre talking about, but that takes time. Meanwhile, focus on being confident, and remember that your adjudicators/opposition will rarely know anything about you if you look confident, and sound confident, theyll usually think you are confident! Conviction is probably the most under-rated facet of manner. Basically, if you dont look like you care about the topic and you care about the arguments that youre making, then why should anyone else care? Remember that adjudicators suffer from all the same things that you as debaters endure at tournaments theyre tired, they can be bored, they can dislike the topics if you dont do everything you can to make the debate engaging and appealing then you cant expect them to make much effort either. There is a fine like between sounding passionate and sounding ridiculous, but: Your manner should say Im here to persuade not Im trying to win a debate. Whats the difference? The difference is everything. Its the difference between highschool and university debating; and its the difference between being a good debater, and a truly great speaker. Trying to persuade means engaging in the issues first and foremost, and again, you should be trying to project the image that you care about them and that you genuinely want other people to believe you not just so that you and get another win for your team, but because its inherently important to you that people believe you on this issue.
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Alternatively you can try and win the debate, and that means doing everything you can point out to the adjudicator why your team has scored more points, and everything you can to make your opponents look bad, instead of making them look wrong. Dont tell adjudicators how to do their job, just focus on doing your job being persuasive. The rest will take care of itself. So that means avoid referring to the fact that youre having a debate so dont say high school-like things, such as welcome to todays debate, the topic is or As the first speaker its my job to explain the model just get to the issues as fast as you can. Use your context and set-up to explain the debate thats why you should contextualise at the start of first speakers speech. In team splits, talk about how your case expands logically; instead of it appearing like youve made some arbitrary distinction. Sound professional, sound sophisticated and sound genuinely interested. Again, these are subtle things and individual instances of debate speak4 (talking about the debate, instead of talking about the issues) dont matter much, but cumulatively they have a big impact. They remind the adjudicator that this is just a contest, and the teams are just trying to score points. You can still win when that happens, but youll never really learn to persuade, instead youll just learn how to be better than other team and sometimes thats not saying very much. People often ask how to put teams away, in other words, how to win by large margins and the key to scoring big wins against good teams, is manner. If you can master these three facets of manner, then when coupled with a strong case (which all good teams have by virtue of experience) then you will able to smash opponents, not just beat them. But it takes patience, practice and perseverance!

See Jeremy Briers excellent article in Edition 4 of the MDR

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Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

Chapter Five: Secret Topic Prep


(Can and should also be used for preparation in general!)

Part A: Steps to good Preps


Note: This is a lightly edited version of a text written by Nicole Lynch. Preliminaries: Listen to the topic write it down with the correct wording and DONT PANIC!!! Then take a deep breath and start talking! (you and your team shouldnt stop talking til your done! 1. Identify the Controversy Think about the following questions: What is the context of the debate? What is the status quo and/or what event related to the topic has occurred recently? Has something been proposed in relation to a controversy? (eg. by a government, by an interest group?) What is the issue that this debate is all about? This step should help you understand why the topic was set in the first place why its an issue that people are discussing (or should be discussing!). When it comes to the first speakers speech, this step should help you set up the debate, let the audience know what the debates about and why its a debate worth listening to. 2. Form a dichotomous statement about the debate. Form a statement about the debate that can be answered yes or no. This should set up the divide between the two teams in the debate both agreeing and disagreeing with the statement should be valid positions so that there is a genuine clash between the sides so that a good debate can occur. Avoid restating the topic the statement can be the backbone, or main contention, of your case. 3. Define the terms of the debate Your context should already make it clear what it is that the topic means in terms of what any unclear or ambiguous terms are relating to. Thus, setting up a definition does not mean going through what each word in the topic means you should have already made this clear, it means defining the terms of the debate: Model Debates in a lot of debates, defining the debate means proposing your solution or model for solving the controversy. The details of your model should include the scope of the debate (eg. the first world? Australia? Schools?) and give the debate a clear structure thorough which your arguments can be analysed. Empirical Debates these are debates where youre not arguing for a solution but merely evaluating something eg. that our celebrities are no good. Your definition of the topic in these kinds of debates should set up the benchmarks by which youll be assessing the issue. The definition stage is critical because it sets your team (and sometimes the other team too) clear markers against which your arguments can be evaluated. Remember you should never try to win a debate by your definition (either model or benchmarks). Your aim should be, in defining the debate, to set up a good strong structure through which both teams can wrestle with each others arguments
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4. Make a wishlist Think of things youd like to prove for your case anything that would be beneficial to your side of the debate things that if you could prove would make it easier to win. If youre stuck for ideas, think of the groups involved in the issue what their interests would be and how they are Affected by the issue (or would be Affected by your proposal). 5. Cull and Expand your wishlist into arguments Now its time to transform your wishlist into a case. This is where your ideas get transformed from mere assertions to actual arguments. Remember the form of an argument: IDEA ANALYSIS EVIDENCE With your whole team working together, you should be able to come up with the best (being the clearest and most logical) analysis and the best evidence (examples, statistics etc) for each of your arguments. Ask yourself at this stage whether you have made all the links to explain how you reach your conclusion so that someone whod never even thought about it would be able to follow your reasoning (and be convinced by it!) Once you have expanded your wishlist, read through them carefully and identify ones that are un-provable and get rid of these. Anything that you cant logically prove at this point should be cut its a waste of valuable speaking time to pursue arguments that wont help your case and it means youll have less time to develop your stronger arguments. Prioritise your arguments so that you know which are the strongest/most important and which merely strengthen it cut the weaker ones if you have too many and be prepared to defend your important arguments! 6. Do your team split Finally, as a team work out the logical progression of the arguments and thus, which speakers will be covering which material. Then speakers can finalise their notes for their own speeches in the final few minutes. Some final comments You and your team should be talking to each other for the vast majority of your prep time if you construct your case according to the method above, every member of the team should be clear as to what the key clash in the debate is, what your team is proposing and the details of your teams arguments. This is important so that your team presents a consistent, logical case that fits together well. It is also a good tactic, because although only one speaker will be presenting any single argument, any speaker may use that argument in rebuttal (or have to defend it from attack) and might have to summarise or clarify an argument during the debate so understanding all your teams material is vital and collaborative preparation of your case is the way is the best way equals argument!

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to do this. Plus it means that if anyone is hazy about anything at any point, they have two other people to consult with to smooth out the bumps before they get to the debating room! Three heads are better than one! Finally, also remember that this method is all about actually debating. Dont work through all the steps and then stand up to give your speech and completely forget what youve just talked about! The structure of your teams case should follow the structure of your prep when you identified the controversy at the start of your prep it was so you knew what the debate was about and why it was worth debating: dont launch into your arguments before you enlighten the audience, and the adjudicator and your opposition what the debates about to! If theyre all on the same page as you, your arguments are likely to make a whole lot more sense and the debate will work better!

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Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

Part B: Making Arguments from First Principles


As a novice or even intermediate debater you will constantly feel like you dont know enough to debate most topics to their full potential and unfortunately thats true. But how to you fix that lack of knowledge? You focus on first principles. First Principles has two key elements: (1)A good understanding of the principles of logic (i.e knowing how to show that an argument is logically flawed without knowing any facts/matter about the issue). (2) A good understanding of the key concepts that form the fundamental clash in the debate - (see Appendix One for a basic list). Simply put, you can't prep a good case without having good and consistent IDEAS about a topic, and short of being an expert on every issue; these two elements are the best way to generate those ideas in prep. NOTE: The language isnt that important. Dont worry about learning the labels/jargon used in Appendix One, its the IDEAS contained in those theories that are important. None of this is meant to suggest that you shouldnt try to keep up with the news, and even go further than that and specifically go and research issues that you think might be useful of course you should do that. But thats a process that will be on-going throughout your debating career. At the start you want to give yourself the best possible chance of building good cases on a wide range of issues and first principles is the best way to do that. The case prepping method outlined in Chapter Five is designed to show you how to build up a case by approaching it from first principles incorporating both logical progression of ideas, as well as being able to identify and understand the philosophical clash that lies at the heart of any debate. There are few short cuts to learning first principles. The best ways are to read and to pay attention during debates/adjudications. All debates are built on a foundation of conflicting ideas and theories about how to solve problems like how to best run the economy (e.g. Keynesian or Neo-liberal?) or the best principles for a political system (e.g. communitarian or liberal?), etc. These ideas might sound complicated, but for the purposes of debating you just need to understand the key concepts in each theory. So what is an example of first principles theories in action? Well many of the 1st P theories relate to disputes over the true role of the government and you can learn the fundamentals of dozens of debates, but just mastering a few simple concepts. First Principles The Role of Government At some point everyone learns about liberalism (small l liberalism, not the Liberal Party). Obviously because Australia is a liberal-democracy, the concept of liberalism must have a lot to do with how we conceive of the proper role and responsibilities of government. But what does it mean? Well, liberalism means
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small government giving individuals as much freedom as possible (as long as that freedom wouldnt be used to hurt other people). So true small l liberals believe that when given the choice between banning something or merely regulating its use, governments should choose to regulate it, because banning something implies that the government is telling you what sort of behaviour is acceptable or beneficial for you and liberals think that wrong. So while it might save lives and money if we banned smoking and drinking, true liberals would argue that these things should be regulated (e.g. preventing children from using them) but otherwise if people want to choose to do something that will do them harm, thats their choice. The key is informed choice so long as adults fully understand the choice they are making, then they should be free to make it. For example, everybody knows that smoking is incredibly dangerous. If they still want to smoke, then the government shouldnt stop them, because its an informed choice. Conversely there are people who are sometimes called communitarians or more broadly, socialists, who take the opposite view. They favour big government, a government that actively involves itself in shaping the choices that people can make, in an effort to create a society that promotes the social good. So it was big government socialists who decided that wearing a seatbelt should be compulsory and that getting immunised for diseases should be compulsory. Thats the government telling you whats best for you its the government saying Were not going to take the chance that youre stupid enough to ignore the obvious benefits of wearing a seatbelt, so were going to make it a law and then punish you if you dont do it. This clash between big government and small government is a constant theme of Australian politics. In practice people dont always support one philosophy consistently, but both sides are always represented in public debate. Think about it. Regards of whether the topic was about gun control, gambling, pornography, drugs, smoking, (etc), the core of the debate is the same big government versus small government. On top of that core clash you would include any specific knowledge you might have the harms or benefits of the thing in question, but each debate would be a clash of the same two principles. Once you learn a few 1st P ideas, youll start to see them underpinning every debate you do. Even if no one ever mentions the names of the theories involved, youll see how the logic of those ideas permeates every argument made. It would be great if you any expert on drugs, guns, gambling (etc) but in the meantime, learning these two 1st P ideas will allow you to build a strong case in any of the innumerable role of government debates. It will also help you devise rebuttal.

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Chapter Six More Advanced Tactics Part A: Case Construction Tactics


If you have understood everything so far about how to choose the right definition, how to pick a good medium-to-hard line and then how to construct good, analysis-rich arguments, then case construction is really just about how to bring all those things consider in a way that is consistent. Most of you will be familiar will the traditional case prepping method (brainstorm for the first 10 minutes, then compare notes to come up with a definition and a model etc, etc) and that system is fine for beginners because its very clear, simple and easy to follow. But experienced teams dont prep like that, and like training wheels, the sooner you gain the confidence to move on to a more sophisticated process the better. My system is based around maximum communication between teammates and a truly collaborate process which is meant to help you be more creative when thinking up arguments, while simultaneously improving consistency amongst speakers (which is usually lacking in inexperienced teams, and is absolutely vital when debating strong teams). In addition to having prep techniques that help you develop more innovative arguments, there are some tactics that you can employ to improve your teams consistency and responsiveness to challenges. The first tactical decision to make regards speaking order and the second is a technique I like to call filters and then finally there is the issue of making tactical concessions. In addition to those concepts, it is also vitally important that teams properly contextualise their cases to not only explain the factual context of the debate, but to help build momentum for their argument, and set the tone for the debate. Three factors that are useful to contextualising a case are Trends, norms and tipping points, which will be discussed later in this chapter. Speaking Order and Filters. Speaking Order - Its difficult to generalise about speaking order, because each team has its own strengths and weaknesses, but there are some things worth considering. Ideally speakers should be capable of competently performing any of the speaker roles (even if most people have a favoured speaking position) and young debaters should set themselves the goal of gaining that level of flexibility and skill as soon as possible. Being able to speak in any position is crucial to developing a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of debates, which will improve your debating skills (through better understanding of tactics and case construction) and is also a crucial part of become an elite adjudicator. All things considered equal it is my view that more knowledgeable person on a given topic should speak second. There are two good reasons for this. Firstly, it helps with consistency because the first speaker can be briefed on the issue in the prep and then because the 2nd speaker was the principle source of that information they should be well

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placed to avoid contradictions or inconsistencies as the case expands. Secondly this configuration gives the team maximum flexibility when responding to the initial attacks of the opposition. Since this person is the most knowledgeable on the issue, they are best placed to reposition the team following the oppositions speaker. I think this is a good rule for teams of all skill level, but especially for teams at the ends of the spectrum very inexperienced teams and very experienced teams. Intermediate teams might find it more difficult to identify which speaker is the most knowledgeable, and speakers at this level might have limited capacity to be flexible in terms of speaking roles (whereas at the novice level speakers might feel more comfortable in a given role, but few would actually have a significantly higher level of competence in that role then they do in any other). Of course a good set-up to a case is absolutely vital, and great care and attention should be given to a first speaker during prep to ensure that they are ready and able to fully explain all aspects of your definition and model. There is no point having maximum flexibility at second speaker if the case has been badly presented from the start. Again all things considered equal the most knowledgeable and confident person on a given topic should probably speak second. Finally a note about speaking third; a disproportionate number of high school debaters consider themselves to be natural third speakers. Thats not necessarily a problem, and every good team needs a strong third speaker, but the reality of debating is that in most cases, third is the last place to have your best speaker. Especially in 3-on-3 styles, the strength of the case and the sophistication of the analysis early on are absolutely vital, and if its not done well then a brilliant 3rd speaker will be unable to save that team from any decent opposition. Speaking 1st and even 2nd can seem daunting or even boring sometimes, but at this level a great 1st speaker is much more valuable to a team then a great 3rd. Filters A filter is simply a test that you establish (either explicitly or just amongst your team mates) by which you will gauge your sides reaction to any question or argument raised by the opposition. So its a guiding principle if you like, by which your team will navigate throughout the debate. Applying a clear filter/s to your case has two benefits, the first of which is that it generates consistency anytime the opposition ask whether your plan will include a certain group you will know immediately what the correct/consistent answer should be, even if you hadnt considered it during prep. Secondly, and this is especially useful when debating with very inexperienced speakers with which you need to spend a lot of time building up their understanding of the fundamental issues in the debate filters give them clear boundaries and confidence when delivering rebuttal. What are some examples of a filter in a debate? The topic That intellectually disabled children should be taught in mainstream schools was run at a debating tournament in 2005 and my team successfully employed a simple filter to keep our case clear and consistent allowing us to defeat a team with a higher (average) level of experience.

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The filter was simple and drew on the most obvious and relevant analogy as the affirmative team, we set as our guiding principle that we would not accept any restrictions on intellectually disabled children, which is not the norm for physically disabled children. With that in place my team could focus during prep on developing ideas and persuasive analysis. This meant that we didnt spend much time thinking about the oppositions arguments, but instead had a well-developed case. During the debate we were challenged on issues like; violent students, severely disabled kids, specialty staff and upgrades to facilities to accommodate the intellectually disabled, and every time my team answered confidently and consistency even though we hadnt discussed many of those issues. We dont tolerate extremely violent physically disabled children in the mainstream system, just we dont put severely physically disabled kids in mainstream schools (but the vast majority are do get in) and we wouldnt tolerate a child in a wheelchair being denied access to a mainstream school because the government didnt want to pay for a ramp or a special aide teacher so why apply different rules to the needs of intellectually disabled kids? This is not to suggest that our case was flawless, or our opponents case had no merit, the point is that running every argument through a clearly defined filter keeps your responses consistent and relieves the stress on inexperienced speakers. But can a negative team make use of filters? Absolutely they can and a good example would be the topic That we should ban pornography which features violence or coercion. This is a difficult topic for the negative team; you need to clearly establish what sort of pornography you are prepared to defend. Not everyone is knowledgeable about various kinds of hardcore pornography and its not an area where people will be easily able to think of examples and evidence. But the filter is fairly obvious, a smart negative would set as their test that we should only accept restrictions on pornography if the same principle was the norm for mainstream media. This gives the Neg a chance to spend their prep time preparing the best possible free-speech/pornography case they can think of, without worrying too much about how they will cope with the arguments that will obviously be raised by the Affirmative. This filter deals eloquently with the issue of violence dealing with it the same way as with other media namely that it should be assessed, classified and if necessary access can be restricted (such as with R rated movies) but thats not the same thing as a ban. However there is a limit to how much violence a mainstream movie can get away with, and it should be the same so grotesquely violent pornography can be banned, but just like ultra-violent movies, this is a minority, and lots of violence is still allowed to be shown, and violent pornography shouldnt be any different. Just like the previous example, using this filter throws the onus back onto the opposition to show how the analogy is inappropriate so in the first case they would need to show why intellectually disabled children cannot be treated under the same principles as for physically disabled children, and in the second case the Aff would need to show why pornography is so special that adults are unable to process it in the

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same way as they can watch violent action and horror movies without turning into serial killers. Its harder than it might seem! There isnt always a convenient and simple filter for every case, but its a trick you should have up your sleeve because where appropriate its a simple but powerful tool. Tactical Concessions Tactical concessions are in the same tactics family as filters because in both cases the issue is; knowing how to choose your battles. Its not possible or advisable to try and rebut every argument made by your opposition its always better to prioritise the arguments and focus on attacking the most potent ones your opponents made. But which arguments should let through? Well there are two answers to that those that are weak/stupid, and those that can simply be conceded. Obviously weak or irrelevant arguments should be ignored if dealing with them was an unreasonable distraction from more important issues (although sometimes its worth pointing out quickly how stupid an argument is to discredit your opponents, but youll still only win the debate if you deal with their strongest points). But the second option is to make a tactical concession. Basically, this is admitting that you happen to agree with a proposition put forward by your opponents. Some people think it looks weak to agree with your opponents too often. I think that as long as youre smart about it, then tactical concessions make you look reasonable and allow you to focus attention on the true areas of clash in the debate. So when should you conceded? There are two rules to concessions concede if you would like stupid otherwise, and concede if it makes an argument you cant win go away. So what are some examples? Well in 90% of debates both sides should agree with the existence of a problem (you can still strongly disagree with the proposed solution). In a debate about drugs, it would seem churlish to deny that there is a drug problem, or in a debate about rogue states like Iran or North Korea, it would look silly to pretend that these states are not dangerous but admitting that doesnt mean that any particular course of action is automatically the right response. The second rule is more difficult to implement. Conceding in order to make problematic arguments go away (in other words, lose relevance in the debate) is a fine line. Often its better to concede that there is a moral imperative to act (in response to some sort of problem or situation) than it is to fight it. But be careful. If you are going to defend the status quo, and an opposition is foaming at the mouth about how terrible the current situation is, then it would be a bad idea to concede that and then propose no change to the situation. But if both sides have agreed that there is a problem, and both sides think the status quo needs to change, then dont let your opponents go on and on about how morally superior they are. Concede that there is a moral imperative to act then remind the adjudicator that your side has a plan to tackle the problem and your opponents are really just wasting time talking about an issue that everyone agrees on. Trends, Norms and Tipping points. When building a case, the very first thing you should do is clearly establish the context in which the debate occurs. This entails discussing some of the factual circumstances

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that have led to the debate, but your case will be made more potent by developing a sense of urgency a need to implement your particular policy now. How can you do this? Well its critical to first understand the nature of the problem so that you can describe why something is a problem. But simply pointing out a problem is often not enough; to make the case really strong you need urgency, why should this plan be done now? (especially if its something that has been debated many times before, like the death penalty, or euthanasia, etc). Well one part of the answer can be to point to trends, norms or tipping points. Trends The trends are the current direction of policy. Following the terrorist attacks of 9-11 there has been a clear trend developing of governments passing increasingly restrictive anti-terrorism laws (detention of suspects, intrusive investigation powers, increased penalties) in the name of public safety. Its clear from the way that Australia has modelled some of its most recent reforms on laws based in the UK that there is a widespread trend emerging, which is becoming a cycle of increasingly stringent laws. Some trends can be very broad, so since the early 90s there has been a clear trend amongst Western governments to pursue economic policies based on neo-liberalism (privatisation, reductions in trade barriers, deregulation of industry). Thats not to say that this process has been universal, but it clearly happening in the majority of cases and regardless of whether it is good or bad, it is the reality. Maybe you want to propose a policy that would be a change to this trend, perhaps even reverse it. Thats fine, but its important to understand the trends because that will help you understand what sort of problems your proposal will be likely face. Its perfectly fine to use the development of a trend as the impetus for a policy. So you might say as part of your set up there is a clear trend developing over the last decade for the United States to act militarily without the consent of the United Nations (Bosnia, Iraq, etc) and we think it is critical that we make reforms to the international system so as to encourage the US to act more multilaterally, and to strengthen the relevancy of the UN. We would do this by reforming the UN in the following way Or As we have seen from the recent trend of massive corporations (World Com, Enron, HIH, etc) going bankrupt as a result of the serious mismanagement by Directors, we think its time to institute far harsher penalties for Directors who deliberately run companies into the ground. Therefore we will be proposing the introduction of laws to make Directors personally financially liable for acts of deliberate mismanage that they conduct But equally there is nothing wrong with proposing a case that would be an extension of a current trend; you can use analysis of a trend to add momentum to your argument. So for example; Over the last 10 years we have a clear trend emerging whereby parents are increasingly being given access to reproductive technologies as a means to better plan their families and ensure healthy babies (IVF, pre-natal genetic

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screening, etc) and so we think that it is the simply the next logic step to give potential parents access to the next generation of reproductive technology which involves genetic manipulation of the foetus. Therefore we support a parents right to genetically modify their unborn child. This is an example of how you can use a trend analysis to make something that is objectively very controversial appear to be simply the next step along the path which society is already on. It is analysis that will form part of the core of your case - genetic modification is not that different in terms of principle, from what we already allow (if we allow a foetus to be screened for genetic diseases which might lead to the parents making a decision to abort, then why not allow parents to use technology to ensure that the foetus is healthy in more ways than simply avoiding disease?). If you can demonstrate that the relevant trends are pointing in the direction of your teams logic, then the task is that much harder for the opposition. Norms Norms are closely related to trends, in that norms are the status quo, or what people are willing to accept now (the trend might be moving in any direction but at any given moment a particular position will be the commonly held norm). For instance it is a norm in our society that citizens have equal rights. This seems simple enough, but it wasnt always the case. Less than a century ago it was the norm (globally) for women to be denied the right to vote, just 40 years ago it was the norm in Australia for Indigenous people to be denied to right to vote. Since those times we have seen a growing trend towards greater equality but as it stands, the norm is that neither group has reached a position of full equality. The extent to which society accepts inequality is the norm, while the direction things are moving is the trend. Norms can be highly culturally specific. In Norway and Japan many people view the consumption of whale meat as being little different to any other meat, but in Australia the norm is for people to view whales as worthy of special protection. Norms can also be influenced by economic factors (poor and rich people can have very different ideas about norms) religion, ethnicity, nationality, etc. It is important to understand norms to understand how hard, soft or insane a particular argument/model is (because this is largely based on how different people perceive your case to be from the norm). Tipping Points A tipping point is basically what happens when a trend gains momentum to the point where a major change is considered. Tipping points are important because they add weight and credibility to what might otherwise be seen as an unlikely or highly speculative outcome. So basically when youre setting up your case you obviously want to make it sound like the plan that you are proposing is going to work - that people are going to be fairly willing to do it and that its going to have benefits. Sometimes this is hard to do especially if you are arguing for something quite hardline. So if you can describe the situation or the problem of the debate as being at a tipping point then you can give your case a sense of urgency and credibility. These are both powerful things to have on your side.

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So what are some examples of a tipping point? Well they occur when a situation has reached a critical juncture where policy makers are either forced to make a fundamental choice (should we abolish voluntary student unionism, or should be become a Republic) and there is really no half-way point. Or maybe a series of events have quickly moved a situation forward, making previously remote options seem more plausible. A recent example of a debate which somewhat unexpectedly reached a tipping point is abortion. Abortion was a bit of a non-issue in Australian politics for many years, and with the conservative Howard government winning control of both houses of parliament, most people would have thought the issue would be largely ignored for the foreseeable future. But because of pressure by a cross-party alliance of MPs, there was a conscience vote (effectively) on the legalisation of the abortion pill RU486. Immediately following that, MPs in Victorias parliament started agitating for a relaxation on legal restrictions to abortion under State laws and for a moment it looked like there might even be a cross-party Private Members Bill introduced to force a vote on the issue. That sort of series of related events could be said to be moving Australia (or Victoria at least) towards a tipping point in the debate about abortion laws. Before the RU486 vote it would have been hard to imagine how the abortion debate could become a live issue in Victorian politics, but after the vote both the leaders of the major parties were forced to discuss it and state their positions. By the time of the November election the debate may well reach a tipping point and become an election issue A single major event could cause a tipping point like (to take an extreme example) if Burma tested a nuclear weapon. You can imagine how strong the sense of urgency would be to find new ways to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons technology and to do something about the dictatorship in Burma. It would make options like invasion or attack much more likely that they are at the moment. But usually a tipping point is the result of a series of events that propel a debate into uncharted territory.

Part B: Classic Aff Mistakes and Neg Tactics.


Many of the mistakes that Affirmative teams make when setting up debates are also the perfect weapons for negative teams to use especially if they are squirreled or have limited knowledge of the substantive issues in the debate. For that reason they are discussed here together. Classic Trap One: The Problem Solution Gap. This mistake is most common and most damaging when teams propose soft models. Basically the trap is this, usually when a team propose a soft model they will start by identifying a very real and important problem, but simply offer a soft solution or worse still, offer a soft mechanism to simply improve the situation. The trap however is this, its morally inconsistent to be consciously aware of a great and pressing problem, but then think it is defensible to do very little about it. The trap grows stronger the more the Aff push the moral dimensions of their case. To give an obviously exaggerated example; if a team identify the context to the debate as the growing problem of hunger and starvation in the developing world, and cite a recent UN or NGO report filled with horrifying statistics of the suffering these people

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endure. THEN the team propose a model in which rich nations increase the amount of food aid they donate by some tokenistic amount. It is certainly true that this tiny amount of extra food is literally better than the status quo, but there is a vast inconsistency between the scale of the problem they have identified and the solution they have offered. If they truly think the problem is that big and that important than their model is unconscionable. Realistically, in a euthanasia debate, if a team started by identifying the suffering of the terminally ill in our hospitals and the desperate need to find a way to help these people alleviate their pain and to have dignity in their final moments (a common and reasonable way to contextualise that debate), AND then they ran the soft model described on Page 3, they will have fallen into the Problem Solution Trap. How to exploit the Problem Solution Gap. There are two ways to exploit this gap a combination of the two is most effective. Firstly oppositions should attack the case as being unable to effectively make inroads on the problem they themselves wanted to tackle. This is pretty obvious but still worth doing. You cant acknowledge a serious problem and then propose an inadequate solution Secondly, (especially useful if the opposition dont know much about the topic), simply counter-propose something that would be even marginally be more effective at tackling the problem (but more effective the better). The tactical advantage of this is that it totally neutralises the moral argument and in fact steals it for the opposition. Its the perfect opportunity to hijack the debate. This is one way that teams can win debates after being squirreled. Its a form of first principles case construction/rebuttal. It also works sometimes against ultra-soft lines. Classic Trap Two: The Ultra-Soft line Ive already discussed previously why it is, tactically speaking, a bad idea to for an Affirmative team to propose the status quo as their model and generally speaking any half-competent topic selector will usually word motions so that running the status quo is impossible. But that doesnt stop stupid or inexperienced teams from proposing verysoft line models which are almost the status quo, but not quite. This creates a number of problems for both teams, and a decent adjudicator should expect something pretty special from the Aff if they are to win (so long as the negative team dont freak out and drop the ball). So what do you do when the Aff run an ultra-soft case? First you can laugh to yourself, because the Aff are in a lot of trouble. The reason why an ultra-soft case is a bad idea is because they have the strong potential to collapse a debate and make it difficult for the teams to find any meaningful clash. From the point of view of adjudication theory, the Affirmative team have an obligation to provide the conditions for a good debate which basically means a good, reasonable clash (so there is a strong clash between an Affirmative team that is in favour of freedom and which asks the negative team to defend slavery, but that is an unreasonable clash and should

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be punished by an adjudicator because amongst other things it breaks the definitional rule and probably the code of conduct). But the negative team also have an obligation to come to the party and engage in the debate established by the Aff, so long as the clash is reasonable. However the tactical reason why Aff teams should avoid ultra-soft lines is that they dont give you enough opportunities for providing deep analysis. Almost by definition, an ultra-soft line, a very small change to the status quo, is likely to be very uncontroversial meaning that there is nothing much to say in favour of it! If the topic was that all public schools should have a uniform and the Affirmative team define it as a common dress standard such as no name brand clothes, and no expensive jewellery, minimal make up allowed and only flat heeled, closed toe, single colour shoes. It might seem like an impossible case to lose. But you have to ask yourself, how many quality arguments can you make in favour of this standard? Can you think of enough to fill15 minutes (1st Aff, and half the 2nd Aff) of speeches, without it getting repetitive, simplistic or boring? Id be impressed if you could. Even assuming that the Affirmative team have done themselves a massive disservice by running an ultra-soft line, the negative still need to be careful they dont become victims of an imploding debate where the area of clash is small and gets smaller and smaller until there are virtually no strong areas of difference between the teams. Under those circumstances an adjudicator will have few good reasons to award the debate and will probably end up giving to the team which is penalised less for ruining the debate. As a negative team, your best tactic under all circumstances, but most especially in response to an ultra-soft line is to clearly create space in the debate. That means taking up a hard line (or at least a very firm line) to clearly delineate the stance of your team from the Affirmative, and to give you a clear principled line to defend. In effect the debate ends up being more about whether of not you can clearly explain and strongly defend your line, than it is about defeating your opponents position (in a normal debate those priorities are equally important). Of course you still need to make a strong effort to engage with your opponents case, but the central thrust of your rebuttal tends to be that the Affirmative have based their case on the wrong principle rather than the fact that the specifics of their case will cause some great harm. So in relation to our example, a negative team should run a fairly strong, clear line that students should be able to wear any clothing which suits them, without being unnecessarily provocative or inappropriate (you dont want be condoning students coming to school wearing their pyjamas or dressed like prostitutes, but that still allows a very wide range of acceptable attire). The neg would then focus on why it is important that children be able to wear whatever they like both because its a form of personal expression, and important to the development of their personalities, plus its important for kids to learn to cope with material differences everywhere they go after school the way they look will have an impact on their life, from job interviews and workplace, to fitting in socially and school is a good place to learn those skills.

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The attack on the Affirmative team is that any serious attempt to stifle the sartorial freedom of students is simply limiting the development of their personal autonomy, and making harder for them to learn how to interact with others in the real world. Which would be the same line you would run anyway, but the focus shifts from comparing the potential harms of a proper school uniform (cost, strict conformity, etc) with the harms of free dress (bullying, social segregation, peer-group pressure) and becomes more focused on whether of not freedom of dress/expression is the superior principle to guide this particular debate than the alternative of uniformity of dress. The Affirmative team being the soft and timid people that they obviously are - will probably try and have the best of both worlds and argue that their soft uniform still gives children room to express themselves but this is the crucial thing, now they are fighting on your terms! You need to keep your cool and simply point out that hypocrisy of their position if they think that free expression is important they cant have what amounts to a uniform by stealth. The more they defend the need for students to have self expression, the more you can argue that students will consistently bend and break their rules and that the natural position will be more like that you are proposing. Dont get me wrong, Im not saying that this would be a great debate once a team go ultra-soft its very rarely a good debate (which should be reason enough to never do it yourself) but its a fight for survival. An ultra-soft line is an attempt to suck the controversy out of a debate, and controversy is the oxygen of debate. So the best neg tactic is anything that increases the controversy and injects in some more oxygen. Any decent adjudicator should reward a team that is trying everything it can to save a debate from imploding and so they will hopefully be generous towards you, but you have to keep your cool and run a clear and consistent line. Basically you should go back to first principles figure out what the clash should have been, then figure out which line you can run that will push the debate as far towards that original level of clash as possible.

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Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

Part C: General Tactical Mistakes


Mistake One: The fallacy of mutual exclusivity The concept of mutual exclusivity (ME) has been thoroughly overused and misunderstood by debaters of all styles. This would be bad enough, but on top of that there seems to be a relatively widespread belief that ME is a powerful rebuttal to an opponents case when tactically speaking it can be easily and effectively countered. The problem of ME is this teams think that if they can show that an opponents model is not strictly speaking, mutually exclusive (literally) to their own, then that weakens the validity of their opponents case. There is some truth to this, certainly rhetorically but also argumentatively, but its overstated and quite simple to refute. The first point is that ME is not a fatal flaw in an oppositions case automatically only under certainly circumstances is it even a weakness. For example, if the topic was That this house would legalise recreational drugs and the Affirmative proposed a model of licensed distribution of drugs like ecstasy (essentially treating recreational drugs in the same way as cigarettes and alcoholregulated, restricted but commercially available) the Neg might counter-propose a model that is essentially the status quo, but with greater education about the harmful effects of drugs and drug abuse to discourage their use. Commonly the Aff would respond by say that in essence the Negs case is not mutually exclusive to their own, because an identical education campaign would be consistent with the aims of their own model. While strictly speaking this is true something can be legalised and there can be a broad education campaign about the harms (eg cigarettes) the lack of formal mutual exclusivity is not a fatal flaw, or even an effective attack because philosophically the two models are predicated on mutually exclusive concepts: the best way to limit harm is to allow supply and encourage responsible use Vs the best way to limit harm is to restrict supply and explain that generally there really is no such thing as responsible use. These concepts are mutually exclusive. Secondly, and flowing from the philosophical difference, there is a simple practical distinction. The Negs model is mutually exclusive in the sense that if the education campaign works as well as it argued that it would, then there would be no need to legalise supply of drugs as a harm minimisation strategy - if education does effectively limit harm from drugs, then the only reason why you would go further than that and legalise it is if you thought people had a right to access it (which is an argument exclusive to the Aff).

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Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

Mistake Two: The illusion of sameness. Quite often debaters will analyse an entire category of thing, which should rightly be seen as a wider number of discrete entities that have a small number of things in common but nevertheless possessing significant difference. Some examples include, the media, racial/ethnic/gender/sexuality groups, etc. corporations, developing countries,

In each of these cases there are commonalities between individual members that make generalisations fair and accurate. For example its fair to say corporations are profit driven, because any corporation that doesnt seek (maybe amongst other things) to make a profit, is not really a business its a charity, or community service, but its not a corporation in the colloquial sense of a private business. However that said, the pursuit of profit takes many forms corporations aim for different markets (eg. cheap and low quality vs. expensive and high quality) and operate under different conditions (eg. Big business has large profit margins and massive resources vs. small businesses that usual run on small margins and have limited resources). Any time an opposition talk about a one of these categories as though they are homogenous (what women want is to be represented politically by women or West Papuans dont want development, what they really want is to be free to pursue their traditional culture) even if you know nothing about the group in question, you can confidently assert from first principles that the situation is more complicated than that (many women are more concerned with the ideological beliefs of their representatives, rather then their gender because women are as a group are far from united in their views) and then provide the analysis for why these differences within the group are reasonable, important and how they will complicate the fair application of the oppositions model. Mistake Three: The myth of the oppositions onus (or Push Debating) This is one of those fine line issues in debating/adjudication; when is an opposition team push debating and when is it simply pointing out the obvious about the fundamental clash in the debate? Push debating can occur in many forms. Two of those possibilities were covered in the previous section dealing with false dichotomies and straw men when an opposition are trying to force you to (or convince the adjudicator that you should) argue for something totally irreverent, or to oppose a truism (our onus is to show that this model can work, their onus is to defend the indefensible). As an adjudicator or debater these are simple situations that really only require you to have courage and to clearly explain why such dichotomies are ridiculous and irrelevant to the real debate, then establish what the true dichotomy is, and then get back to defending your side of that equation. But there are other, subtler forms of push debating that inexperienced speakers and judges sometimes miss, and thats when a team try to push an entire case onto their oppositions either through an unfairly skewed definition of the terms of the debate, or through the establishment of some sort of (unfair) test or criteria through which they assert the debate should be judged.

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Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

Remember this simple rule no one can tell you what your side needs to prove. You never have to accept an onus or a set of criteria that is placed on you by an opposition speaker. If your team has a good first speaker, then they will clearly spell out exactly what your side will be attempting to prove or which position you will be advocating for, and thats what you should be judged on. As an adjudicator you should rightly be wary of letting competitors tell you how to judge the debate. Its fine for a team to point out problems with the opposition, or to challenge their definition or their arguments, but in the end the only criteria that matter when awarding the debate, are those set down in the rules. This doesnt mean that every time a team try to set down criteria for a debate, that they are trying to be unfair but in almost every case these criteria are irrelevant. But there are subtleties to this, and as you become more experienced youll learn to tell the difference between a team which is trying (consciously or not) to unfair push their opposition, and when they are simply trying to establish the parameters of a fair debate. For example, if the topic was that Australia should use nuclear energy the affirmative team have the right to choose exactly how much nuclear energy and under what conditions they are willing to defend (thats an issue of how hard line or soft line they choose to be) but they cant define the oppositions case. So they cant say we should like to see the government set a target of generating 20% of Australias electricity through nuclear power, and the opposition have to defend the status quo of virtually total fossil fuel use as a better strategy. Thats push debating. If the negative team want to defend the status quo then thats their choice, but if they had a case based on some alternative (like green energy, or reductions in energy use, or a modification to the status quo through a carbon tax etc, etc) then its their right to set the parameters of their case. All you have to do as a negative team in that situation is to acknowledge the push, and then reject it. For example, you could say something like: The affirmative team are eager to see nuclear power used in Australia and we reject that, but contrary to what they think, our alternative is not a dirty fossil fuel energy industry, the alternative that we will be advocating is. and then insert your model. Every time the affirmative try to say that your team is defending the problems with the status quo, you calmly say no, we want to change the system too, just in a different way, and here is why our alternative is better than nuclear energy and get back to the debate. Sounds simple, but it can take guts when an opposition team is yelling at you! But there are times when an affirmative team is right to stake out the grounds of the debate but this is only the case when the topic forces the negative team by virtue of the wording of the motion, to specifically defend something. So if the topic was That the Singapore should abolish the death penalty as a punishment for drug traffickers then the position of the Negative team is obvious they have to defend the status quo. They might try and insert some minor modifications (a better appeals process, etc) but in the end if theyre not defending the use of the death penalty for drug traffickers then they have failed to engage properly in the debate.

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Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

What you might have seen from the previous two examples is that push debating occurs mostly when the wording of the topic is focused on what the Aff should defend, and doesnt say much about the nature of the negative teams case (such as that we should invade Iran the position of the Aff is made obvious by the topic, but the Neg have several options open to them sanctions, economic engagement, etc). Under these conditions some Aff teams will try and push the Neg, to limit their choices. They might be doing it because they think its in the spirit of the motion, or they might be doing it because they are trying to push them in order to gain some tactical advantage. In any event the Neg is always free to reject the push if they want. But on a final note I think its worth pointing out that its not necessarily weak to accept a pushed position. If the Neg want to embrace the case pushed onto them by the Aff, or they are willing to accept the test or criteria established by their opponents, then its not inherently bad to do so so dont mark them down, or view them as weak for doing it. The issue then is simply was it tactically smart for them to do so and sometimes the answer is yes, just as sometimes a tactical concession can help move a debate forward, or neutralise an argument (see Tactical Concessions in Chapter Five).

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Advanced Schools Guide to Debating: Tips, Tactics and First Principles.

Appendix One - First Principles Exercises


In 25-50 words describe the key features of the following philosophies/concepts, including an assessment of the strength of each position. Governance 1) Liberal democracy (theoretically, there are basically no pure liberal democracies, but some liberal democracies are more liberal than others) 2) Social democracy (there are many Social Democrat political parties in the world what sort of governance system are they advocating). 3) Guided democracy (I dont mean countries that use the word democratic in their title but are total dictatorships) 4) Dictatorship 5) Communism 6) Regionalism Morality 1) Kantian (Rights based) 2) Utilitarianism (preference and hedonistic) Environment 1) Humanist ecology (Sustainable development) 2) Technological ecology 3) Deep-green ecology (humanist ecology is sometimes called shallow-ecology) 4) Tragedy of the Commons Legal Economics 1) Social Contract theory 1) Keynesian 2) J.S.Mills Harm principle 2) Neo-Liberal 3) Aims of the Criminal Justice System Business (Corporate Governance) 1) Corporate Social Responsibility 2) Stakeholder model 3) Shareholders only Security 1) Collective security 2) Cooperative security 3) Democratic peace theory 4) Just war theory

Others
1) Game Theory Political 1) Liberalism 2) Socialism/Communitarianism 3) Secularism Feminism 1) Liberal feminism 2) Radical feminism 3) Developing-world feminism 4) Difference feminism 5) Power feminism

5) New Security Agenda


6) Golden Arches peace theory Science 1) Precautionary principle Australian Politics 1) Federalism (states rights) 2) Centralised power 3) Constitution (S 51, 109, 128) 4) Mandates 5) Party discipline (Aust Vs USA)

Diplomacy
1) Bilateral 2) Regional 3) Multilateral

International Relations 1) Rationalism


2) Realism (and Neo-Realism) 3) Neo-liberal Institutionalism 4) Dependence theory

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